Hilton Head Island gets gold for being “bicycle friendly” from a national advocacy group

FIle/Associated Press Chicago is among the 350 communities in the United States that the League of American Bicyclists have designated as bicycle friendly. The Windy City has a silver designation.

Hilton Head Island is known for its golf, tennis and beaches, but today it received a major kudos for being bicycle friendly, too.

The community, in fact, is now considered the Palmetto state’s friendliest toward those who choose two wheels over four, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

Today, the Washington, D.C.-based bike advocacy group gave Hilton Head the only gold-level designation in its latest list of Bicycle Friendly Communities, or BFCs. In all, the list included 42 new and renewing BFCs.

The highest designation is platinum-level and only four communities currently have it: Boulder, Colo., Davis, Calif., Fort Collins, Colo., and Portland, Ore.

South Carolina has five other bicycle-friendly communities but all are in the category of bronze-level. Those include Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg and Rock Hill. Hilton Head has had a silver designation since 2011. The gold will be valid until 2019.

League of American Bicyclists spokeswoman Liz Murphy says Hilton Head has “built and sustained a culture of bicycling with its more than 30 rental and full-service bike shops, 12 miles of bike-able beach, a far-reaching and well-connected pathway system and a broad range of people who ride.”

“With its huge visitor population, Hilton Head Island has really seized the opportunities for fun and fitness that bicycling provides to thousands of weekly visitors, making it a safe and accessible option.”

Today’s honor recognizes the town of Hilton Head Island’s commitment to improving conditions for bicycling through its investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies.

Town officials say that effort is the result of a collaborative effort between Hilton Head, the town’s bicycle advisory committee, the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and cycling community groups and clubs who served as “bike ambassadors”

Mayor David Bennett says the honor was example of how the public and private sector “can work together to make our town a better place to live and visit.”

Hilton Head cycling advocate Frank Babel says the league was impressed with “our all-volunteer ambassador program, our innovative Chamber Bike & Dine Week and the town’s commitment to building over 60 miles of leisure paths.”

“We have seen an incredible collaboration between the town, the chamber, private businesses and citizen advocates to set this high standard …This is something our entire community can take a great deal of pride in.”

Amy Johnson Ely, executive director of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition, says Hilton Head has distinguished itself in the Palmetto State and the Southeast by “creating a truly extensive amount of bike infrastructure, education, enforcement, and business and community involvement. A lot of volunteer time went into this effort, which will only serve the town for the better, most importantly a higher quality of life for the public at large.”